My Son Beat Me
Not only is my son better at Mario Kart than me, he is much better. Which shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. This is the first competition we have ever had where I have tried to beat him and failed. My son should not be able to beat me at anything at the age of eight. It would be one thing if it were close, but it’s not. He throttles me effortlessly and without mercy. Granted he has played a lot more Mario Kart than me, but I have played many, many video games in my life which I feel like should level the playing field somewhat. It does not.
In the game, each player chooses a character and a vehicle. Then you race against each other through a series of bizarre and beautiful race courses. There are twelve characters per race, with the computer playing the other ten. A routine finish is that he comes in first and I come in twelfth, which is to say, last. This happens over and over again, and it makes me feel as if I accidentally wandered into the Land of Decrepitude. Just beyond the corner is the Town of Senility and just beyond that, Death.
Of course, when he beats me I tell him what a great job he did, although what I want to do is what he does when I beat him at something – burst into tears and/or hit my sister. My sister lives in Florida, though, so that would probably be more trouble than it is worth. I find that I am a gracious winner and a horrible loser. My son is both a horrible loser, and a horrible winner, as evidenced by the “butt dance” he performs each time after defeating me. The butt dance is aptly named because it consists of him waggling his butt (either clothed or unclothed) in my face and singing, “I won/I won/ Uh-huh/uh-huh.” He is a terrible child.
In this respect he takes after his mother. Early in our relationship we used to play backgammon together. That stopped when we got to know each well enough that she felt free to throw the entire backgammon set against the wall after losing. She also refuses to play Scrabble, Boggle, Trivial Pursuit, and ping-pong. Once in a while she will play catch with me, but only because you don’t keep score in catch and because she enjoys when I tell her that she does not throw like a girl. Yesterday she mentioned that she had not exercised that day. I said that I had not either, but that I had the three previous days. She said, “Are you trying to one-up me?”
“Yes,” I said. Because I was. This is the kind of relationship we have.
So it’s no wonder that my son is also fiercely competitive. This week he is at golf camp. For three hours a day he is taking golf lessons with a bunch of other snotty Connecticut kids at a place called “Golf Quest.” I do not play golf. Neither does my wife. Perhaps that is what he drew him to the game, knowing that he will be able to beat me at that too within a very short time.
Doesn’t every boy want to metaphorically (or literally) kill his father? Isn’t that how he asserts his own manhood? The problem is, I do not feel ready to lay down my metaphoric life for my son. I am too young, too virile, too charming and hilarious. Perhaps you think I am over-reacting. After all, it’s just a video game, and not even a cool video game where you kill people. But that’s how it starts. With a video game. Then it’s golf. Then he’s stabbing me in my sleep. I’ve seen it time and time again.
My only recourse is to concentrate on the things in which I am still superior: tetherball, for example. Yesterday we were at the little beach near our house which has two tetherball courts. I destroyed him.
Chess: he sucks.
Running races: his short legs are a real disadvantage.
Math: good for his age, but still sucks.
Basketball: again, short legs are a significant disadvantage.
Memory Games: I am better.
Pole Vaulting: We have not tried, but I strongly suspect I would be better.
Any Contest Involving General Knowledge: he sucks.
Wrestling: My size and weight give me the edge.
And so on and so forth. These kinds of Oedipal struggles are commonplace, I know that, but that doesn’t mean they’re any fun for the guy who knows he is being supplanted in the world by his offspring. Better my downfall should come at the hands of some steely-eyed Aryan or, better yet, an alien.
Then again, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to taking some pride in seeing my child whup me; it shows me that, as good as my genetics are, I have managed to improve them with my child. (I do not take my wife’s DNA into account here because it is obvious where he gets his good genes.) When my kid puts down his Wii controller after having defeated me again at this stupid, stupid, pointless, utterly meaningless video game, a small part of me celebrates with him, and when he shoves his ass in my face that same part sings along to “I won/ I won/ Uh-huh/Uh-huh.”
But mostly I just want to punch him in the face.